Wednesday, December 6, 2017

nets stretched in the best ways

There is a story in the Gospels where the disciples are out fishing all night, yet they don’t catch anything. Then Jesus comes along, and they have such a large catch that their nets begin to break. Yesterday, in our staff meeting, Peri mentioned this story and how we are ending that sort of season right now. God has been so faithful with His blessings: today we finish a DTS with over 20 students from all of the habitable continents. We’ve had outreaches to different cities in the UK, Paris, Spain, and Italy. We had Bones/Arise camp, where we reached out to all of London in the run-up to Notting Hill Carnival. We have several houses across London and a church in Camden as well as ministries that began this year and are reaching into many different sectors of society. When we look back on 2017, we are amazed by what God has done.

Something that Chris has kept saying recently, though, is that blessings come with a weight of responsibility. Each of us has carried increased weight in this season, from more responsibilities to learning how to maintain family in a steadily-growing team. It takes a lot of faithfulness with time and intentionality in relationships. It means being less selfish with space and possessions. And it means carving out time each day to sit quietly with God and to listen to how He wants to do it, because there isn’t a precedent for us to follow. 

In this whole process, our nets have worn in some places. Those of us who are a part of Lazarus, the mercy ministry, have grown used to seeing heart-ache and brokenness in the homeless that we work with several times a week. It has taken a toll on us, even if we haven’t noticed in the day-to-day. We need to be refreshed. Likewise, those of us who have spent the past five months walking alongside our Discipleship Training School students will release them tonight at their graduation, and for a few weeks, at least, we will let go of that responsibility and hand them back to their families and friends. 

And we’re tired. This is our season of more time and freedom, when we go home for holidays and take time together as a team to listen to God and to be re-filled. We have a staff retreat in Brussels in January (where two of our team are moving to lead the YWAM base there), and before that, we are shifting who lives where and how we organise the structure of our days. But also, there will be more time to seek God’s heart. And that is what keeps us going. 

We need your prayers in this season, that doors will open for our team to have a space to meet all together. We have 25 staff and just as many students, and the places that we have been using are no longer available to us. But in February we begin an arts internship and a leadership school, and as of right now, we don’t know where the classes and track times for those schools will be held. We also need prayers that we will find the right house when we need it again, as this is the off-season for the London housing market. It is also getting closer to the time for us to begin our commercial venture of having a cafe/shop/hair salon, etc, and we are starting to learn about the rental agreements for commercial spaces. As you can imagine, the rent will be staggering. But we want to be faithful to God’s dreams for London, so we are pursuing it. 

As for me, I am training to run the London Marathon in April. It is our charity’s first year having a space, which means a lot of paperwork and registering the charity with various services from the Queen. I thought that training would be the most difficult part of the marathon, but I was wrong! If you could pray that God makes a clear way for us to get all registered, I would be very thankful!

I will be in the States from 17-27 December. On 17 December, I will be at Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah, Georgia. On 19 December, I will be at Martha Franks in Laurens, South Carolina. On 20 December, I will be at Green Creek First Baptist Church in Columbus, North Carolina. If you’d like to see me at any of those places, please email I cannot wait to see all of you whilst I am in the States!

Micah and Ina talking to a guest at our November exhibition

Our students inviting people into our November exhibition

One of the girls I mentor performing in front of a castle in Milan, Italy

A picture one of my photography students, Joseph, took of me in Lake Como, Italy

Another photo of me by Joseph in Lake Como

With one of my arts gathering friends, Theresa, in Paris

a teaching at the International Arts Gathering in Paris

Serving the homeless of Camden

The Tuesday morning drop-in for the homeless

Monday, October 30, 2017

Drop In, Drop Out

I seem to be an expert at fly-by posts these days. October has been a month on the move for me, with a half-marathon, the final performances of "Here I Stand" by Mervyn Weir, the International Arts Gathering in Paris, and now, outreach to Milan. I am so grateful to have gotten to do both the half marathon and the play, because they have allowed me to influence different spheres of society that I don't normally get to touch. As a team, we don't want to just be the church inside of a church building. We love to be the church everywhere that we go, because we take Jesus wherever we go. If people's lives are changed when they encounter Jesus, then we bring the possibility of change just by moving across the different streets and societal spheres of our city.

Most of my team came to support me in the London showing of the play, and it meant so much to me that they gave up a Saturday evening to be there. It wasn't just that they wanted to see me sing and act; the play was about the Protestant Reformation and what the church's responsibility is today. It had a clear gospel message about God's grace, and there were non-Christians in the audience who left the theatre knowing a lot more about God than when they entered. For that matter, I learnt a lot about the Reformation myself!

I am excited to hand all of the things that I have been doing back to God and to make room for Milan. As I was training for the London Marathon today, I had 16 miles to think back over everything that God is doing. In the past year, He has increased our team exponentially. We quote it all of the time: six houses, several churches that work with us, several new vehicles, numerous new jobs and ministries and areas where God is putting us to spread His love. But as often as we quote it, I still have to remember to thank God for what He is doing. The landscape of our team is changing. We don't all staff all of the programmes anymore, since we are involved in the various ministries of the base. We have to be more intentional about communicating the daily details of life and about celebrating together. We have to fight more to be a family.

We are being challenged in the area of finances as well, with six houses to pay rent on as well as utilities and other expenses. Chris said it best last week, "Sometimes you think you want the blessing, and then you feel the weight of the blessing." We look forward to the seasons that are coming in 2018, to the schools and the ministries and the programmes, but we are also having to learn to be faithful with what we have right now. For me, that means being faithful to lead the students well in Milan next week, to love them and walk with them even when I am tired or would rather not have to find solutions to whatever situations present themselves.

The team went to Milan last year, but I haven't been since the outreach that we took in April 2015. I think that God will open my eyes to aspects of the city that I didn't see the last time we were there, and I look forward to it. And of course, there will be the typical challenges of a DTS outreach. But the students have been going after God's heart at the International Arts Gathering in Paris this past week, and they are all so excited to see in what ways they can serve and use arts to reach the people of Milan.

Only half the team is going to Milan; the other half of the DTS students will be doing outreach in Spain. It is the first time we've split a DTS outreach like this, so I think that we will learn a lot. But I am also looking forward to getting to know the ten students on our team more deeply in this time, and to seeing them move in the ways that God encourages them. Outreach always requires a lot of dependance on God, and as difficult as that is to plan for, it means that the Holy Spirit has the space to work in our lives and through our lives. And for that, I truly am excited.

If you could pray for the outreach teams to Spain and Italy, we will be gone until 11 November. After that, the students dive back into lecture weeks, and we prepare for an exhibition that will be held at the end of November. And if you could pray for the team and personal finances of all of us here in London, as well, we would truly appreciate it.

I will see you all after Italy! Ciao!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

(hello, goodbye!)

I am just popping in for a quick post on a busy Sunday morning, busy because, in addition to team activities, I have had the privilege to participate in two other activities over the past months: half-marathon training and rehearsals for a play. They are diverse, but they are both passions that God has given me, and it has been an absolute honour to include both of these into my life here in London.

Many of you may remember that my university degree is in theatre. Many of you may not know that, the year I began university, I also began running. After nine years (yes, nine!), I am doing my first "real" race next Sunday morning. I will be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon, and if all goes well, I will potentially be running the London Marathon in April. I believe that I take the Spirit of God with me wherever I go, and that by training these past six months, I have taken God with me all over the city. I've seen areas that I wouldn't normally venture into, met people, been a part of activities (I've seen the Queen's Guard twice!) that I hadn't planned on attending, and had lots of time to pray and listen to God's heartbeat for this city. I'm running for a charity called Shelter who seeks to give counsel to those facing homelessness, and through that counsel and those resources, to help them find homes. I am still about £100 short of what I need to race, so if you would consider contributing to my race, you can do that here:

I am also a cast member in a new play by Mervyn Weir that is called "Here I Stand." This October marks 500 years since the Reformation with Luther and his other Protestant compatriots, and the play is a call to arms for the church in England. The church here is divided and, largely, empty. That is something that has weighed on the hearts of my team members and I for years, and getting to be a part of this play has been amazing. It is not just for church goers; rather, we play in secular theatres around the UK. Last night was our opening night in Cardiff, Wales. Some people came from as far as Germany to see it! The whole cast was driven to Cardiff from London together, and we spent the day in technical rehearsal and doing the show. It went really well, and we arrived back in London around 2:30 am. The show goes up in London on 21 October and in Birmingham on 28 October, so if you're on this side of the ocean and would like to come, you can purchase your tickets here:

So there you have it! Life is full in London, and leaves are covering the streets, and the days are shorter, but we are still running for the prize (pun intended). I am sorry that this update is so short, but I desperately covet your prayers for these "extra-curricular" activities that I get to take part in. And if you manage to make it to either the half marathon or to one of the shows, please let me know! I would love to see you!

Running training by some landmarks

The theatre in Cardiff

a terrible picture of me in costume

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

the joy that comes

Autumn is firmly on its way now. Leaves clutter the kerb outside of our house, and we have had to unpack the cardigans and warm socks that we hid away in our summer optimism. But for me, the year turned two weeks ago, when we opened the door of Westbourne Grove Church on a Tuesday morning to find the streets of Notting Hill in their normal, tidy state. The chaos of the previous two days, when two million people descended on the neighbourhood for the Notting Hill Carnival, had disappeared literally overnight. 

Notting Hill Carnival and Bones Camp were different this year than they have been in the five previous years that I’ve taken part. For obvious reasons: we no longer host it at Notting Hill Community Church, and recent terrorist attacks as well as the Grenfell Tower fire in June have changed the atmosphere of Notting Hill. But to be honest, I was ready for a change. I had grown comfortable with Bones Camp (well, as much as one can in a camp that includes minimal sleep or showers), and I needed to be reminded of the purpose. Last year, we expanded Bones Camp to reach more of London. We continued that this year, and throughout the twelve days of Bones, we went to Notting Hill, Portobello Road Market, King’s Cross, Trafalgar Square, and Shoreditch. We all went to church together in Camden on the first Sunday, as well, which felt like taking an army into our Promised Land. 

Every year, you hear me say the same things about Bones. We created floats, we walked on stilts, we drummed. We did all of those things this year. But instead of creating a visual marvel this year, we did our floats and costumes on a smaller scale and focused on being intentional with people. I believe that God loves a spectacle that brings Him glory - if He didn’t, would have have vanquished His foes by luring them into the Red Sea and then drowning them all spectacularly? Would He have made Himself a cloud of fire to lead the Israelites by night, or sent massive plagues onto the nation of Egypt? But God is also the King of subtlety. He sent an earthquake and a whirlwind past Elijah, but He was in the whisper that came afterwards. And Jesus Himself did amazing miracles, but according to Isaiah, He wasn’t the most handsome, charismatic man. Different years of Notting Hill Carnival lead us to express different dimensions of God’s heart. 

Notting Hill is hurting this year. Grenfell Tower exposed the truth of the gap between rich and poor in Kensington and Chelsea. The tower is visible from all around Notting Hill, yet it may as well have been invisible for all the attention given it before the fire. Even now, after the fire, the gap between rich and poor is drastic. The people of Grenfell have had money thrown at them, but it isn’t helping them. In the case of our Dinner Club acquaintances who lived in the tower, it has led them into a spiral of buying drugs and remaining drunk. There isn’t anybody to help them cope with what has happened, so they are destroying themselves to try to forget what has happened and to fill the gaps left by the friends who didn’t make it out. During Bones Camp, we met with one man in particular who we used to hang out with at Dinner Club and around Notting Hill. He had brand new designer sneakers and a new phone, as well as new accommodation, but he also had a new drug addiction. His life is in worse shambles now than it was before.

One my favourite moments of Carnival was when we paraded up the street with signs and rhythms proclaiming joy and life. Grenfell rose behind us, a shadow of what has happened this year, but we got to make new proclamations over the ground. We spent the afternoons of the Carnival talking to people, handing them handwritten promises from the Bible like, “You are not alone,” and, “You are loved.” And we were there. That is what we are called to be: to be there, and to be Love. We were there to meet people as they tried to fill the emptiness of a year, as they tried to forget what has happened, as they tried to find a reason to celebrate, as they drank overpriced beer and danced pressed against strangers and took recreational drugs. 

I love photographing the Carnival, because it gives me a chance to step back and see what is really happening. But I also love going on stilts, because people love to stop and chat. In that moment, we get to give them love and truth. This year, I got to go on stilts in the second afternoon, and I had so much joy from God as I handed out promises to the hordes of people coming down the street. Many stopped to ask what they meant, and we all got to explain the truth about God that flies in the face of everything they’ve heard from the media, from society, from school, about who God is. He is Love, and He is in the middle of Carnival, ready to encounter them.

But isn’t that just like our Father, to be where we least expect Him, inviting us to run back to His open arms?

Eric riding one of our floats and drumming in the main Carnival parade.

a snap of me at Carnival

Alli and Gabby walking on stilts in the main Carnival parade.

two of the people that I spoke to in the Carnival

Melo and I doing evangelism in the Carnival

Parading through the streets of Notting Hill

Going up a street with the shell of Grenfell Tower in the background

Amanda with two of her co-workers, who came to the picnic that we had before Carnival

A performance that we gave for the neighbourhood before Carnival

One of the best parts of being on a housing estate (social housing) is the sense of community. We held a picnic/pre-Carnival party for them, and we spent the evening hanging out and getting to know them.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

resting and running

Everything that I’ve been reading lately seems to talk about how waiting on God takes focus and passion and about active resting. Those are both things that I am having to learn on-the-go, since our 2017 DTS began on 7 July, and we have been going full swing with our 26 students since then. We have already had three weeks of lectures as well as a week of outreach to Bristol for Upfest, the biggest street art festival in the world. 

I recently read a book that talked about Martha and Mary, and it said that we often say, “We need Marthas as well as Mary’s,” but that it isn’t true. Martha was upset that Mary wouldn’t help prepare food that Jesus hadn’t even asked for, but Mary recognised the importance of having Jesus in her house, and she responded in the best way that she could have - she took advantage of it by sitting at His feet and learning from him. Yes, culturally women served. But if Jesus shows up in your lounge room, you don’t run around and make sure all of the details are perfect; you soak up as much from him as you can! If not, by the time you get the house right, you’ll have missed him even being there!

I have the honour of mentoring four of our girls as well as having five photographers in the photography track with me, and I am getting to know them and to be a part of their processes. It is always good to go through DTS with them again, to examine what it means to hear the voice of God, to look at having a servant heart, to see God’s Father heart for us. 

Our timetable is a bit mad right now, because we still have Hope and Anchor Community Church, Connect Groups, Lazarus Project, and times of evangelism, but we also have a DTS of athletes and artists who have joined us. It always takes stretching to learn how to fit everything again. And now we have six houses, as well (and have gotten four of them in the past year), so we have to discover how to make time to be a family in the midst of being spread out across London.

At the same time, God has blessed us. And blessings from God often take stretching. I am still training for the half marathon in October (you can donate to the charity I am running for here - I need to raise 329 pounds by October!), as well as rehearsing for a play about the Reformation, Here I Stand, that will play in London, Cardiff, and Birmingham in September and October. The half marathon and play are activities that I am participating in outside of YWAM, and it is so good to get to know people from this city and to share whole pieces of my life with them. 

The cast of the play is not comprised entirely of Christians, although the writer/director and producer are both Christians dedicated to making quality theatre that educates and entertains. It brings me a lot of joy to be acting again, especially in a British cast, and I’ve been learning a lot about the historical ramifications of the Reformation on the church today. If you’d like to look up information about the play, it is called ‘Here I Stand’ by Mervyn Weir. It is another aspect of doing theatre and missions together, and I love it. 

As you can see, life is busy. I haven’t posted as often as I would like, but you have been blessing me from afar. Lately, I have felt properly spoiled by you guys. A few ladies have sent me cards and packages of cosmetics and things like face masks and eye liner that have been such treats. Others of you have begun supporting me, which is a massive blessing. Still others pray consistently for me (one of you prays at the same time every day!). When my life is this busy, I do feel the force of the prayers and support. Thank you for your faithfulness and love for me; I don’t take it for granted. You are an important part of the work that I do here.

If you could pray that I learn to rest in the madness of these days, I would appreciate it. I trust God when He says that His burden is easy and His yoke is light; I would love to learn how to live that out more! I don’t want to miss out on enjoying this time with our DTS students, or of this Notting Hill Carnival and Bones that starts next week. I want to enjoy it to the fullest, to take time to listen to God, to see how God is shaping lives, and to get to work with Jesus and to shape the lives of others. 

Joel evangelising to a guy in Bristol

a homeless man sleeping on the ground in Bristol

the DTS on their tour of London

Plating food for a homeless feeding programme with the Lazarus Project

Chatting with friends at a homeless feeding programme with Lazarus Project

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

in the fire and the flood

It has been two weeks since we woke up to the news of the Grenfell Tower fire. I found out by receiving a text from a friend who wanted to know if I was safe - she knew that I was often in the Notting Hill area and that one of our team houses was there. 

At first, we were shocked and didn’t know quite what to do. We have been investing in the Notting Hill community for years now, from attending church there to running Bones Camp at the Notting Hill Carnival to hosting a dinner club for the homeless and needy to many of our team members working in the cafes and shops in the area. We worked, celebrated, and made friends with the stall owners in Portobello Road Market, where we do weekly evangelism. So while we didn’t know what to do, we knew that we had to be there. 

We went down to the site of the tower. Latymer Community Church, a church that we occasionally work with, is near the foot of the tower, and they became the centre for food donations. When we arrived on Wednesday afternoon, donations were flooding into the neighbourhood. We jumped in where we were needed, from receiving and sorting donations to serving the residents dinner to cleaning the tables from all of the ash in the air. But what was needed most was a listening ear. 

As the days went on, I found myself by the tower every day. On Wednesday, the community pulled together to do whatever was needed to support those who had been displaced by the fire. However, by Thursday, tempers were raised, and answers were not forthcoming. I went into the area with my camera, but I ended up putting it away rather quickly, because it wasn’t the time to photograph people. It was the time to listen, to pray, to give hugs and compassion. To hear the people who were angry and weren’t being given a voice. You see, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the fire happened, has a massive gap between the richest and poorest people. It is dotted with celebrities and business tycoons, but it also has loads of council housing with people who are living below poverty levels. They literally live in the shadow of the rich and famous, but they are invisible. The very cladding that caught fire so quickly was put up because the rich of Notting Hill didn’t want an ugly tower block bringing down the value of their properties. 

With all of this happening, it was tempting to try to go down to Grenfell Tower to win souls. 

I know that it sounds like a controversial statement, because if there was ever a time when people were searching and hurting, it was in the wake of this fire. But we don’t love conditionally or give a listening ear transactionally. We can’t say, “Tell me what you are going through, but only if you will then listen to this Gospel presentation.” I am learning that loving your neighbour means choosing love over what I want for their lives. I want these people to know Jesus. It is why I am here in London. But I also know that to push the Gospel onto them when they are vulnerable could lead to conversions that aren’t true. It could lead to emotional decisions but unchanged hearts. And I want people to meet Jesus when it is the right time, when they truly want to give their lives to Him, and not just when they are scared and hurting for a few days. 

As a team, we want to make disciples. That is why we are here: to make disciples of all nations. Not to make temporary converts who we can check off a list. Because people aren’t numbers; they are souls and spirits and bodies that are desperately loved by Jesus. If Jesus died for them, then they are worth more than a ten minute “quick save.”

We have to invest in these people. We went down to the tower site and prayed with other Christians. We went to the multi-faith vigil and cried out to our Father whom we know heals and saves and loves and sees what is happening. We listened to the hurting and served with our hands and feet. And we aren’t abandoning them now that the media has gone away. We are committed to Notting Hill, just as we have been. We are learning faithfulness and steadfastness, which are two qualities that are hard for our generation to learn. But we can be faithful in Notting Hill. And with God’s help, and through this tragedy, we are learning to be.

Monday, June 5, 2017

when we are shaken

First of all, I would like to assure everybody that I am well.

As I write this, I am also aware that I will have to live anything that I write. The reality is that the city that I live in has been attacked twice in the past three months, and that the last attack occurred two miles from my house in a place that I regularly visit.

People keep saying that London will not be shaken. While that is a noble declaration, yesterday at Hope and Anchor Community Church, our pastor said that what God is shaking in London needs to be shaken. What will not be shaken is God’s Kingdom (and perhaps that is what people mean when they say that we won’t be shaken).

I don’t have answers for why these horrific attacks keep happening. I can only pray and try to listen to God’s heartbeat to discern what practical action needs to be taken. A dear friend reminded me recently that God does not give us the spirit of fear, but rather, we are given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I have found myself looking twice when crossing streets or walking down busy pavements, but I also know that I am where God wants me to be. I can only be obedient and try to walk with the power, love, and sound mind that are mine as my life is hidden in Christ’s.

This all sounds very brave, but please, pray for us. Pray for London. Not for the abstract city, but for the actual people who live here, the ones who pass each other in the supermarket and ride the Underground together and feel horror in our guts when we hear sirens race past our windows. Pray for YWAM London Radiant as we follow God’s direction for us in this time. We have several challenges in front of us. We have students coming from many different nations and continents for the internship that begins on Wednesday and the DTS that begins in July. Their families will be concerned for them as they come to live in this city, just as our families are concerned about us. We are also still planting Hope and Anchor Community Church in Camden, and we long to see the people of Camden come to find hope and love at our church. We would love to see people turn to God as they face the reality of these past few months. We know that God’s promises of salvation, of love, and of family, are for them as well!

At the YWAM England Family Gathering last week, many different ministries and speakers talked about their heart for seeing God’s Word brought back to common use in England. The Bible is readily available here, but many people consider it obsolete. It seems that God is putting a deep desire in us to see His Word communicated through many different means - a lot of my friends are writing songs that are pure scripture, or are studying the Bible deeply, or are distributing it in different languages on outreaches, or are creating art based off of it. How can we play our part in this beautiful movement? We need creativity and innovation to bring God’s Word back into the hearts of this nation!

I am excited for the season that God is bringing England into. He is the God of seasons, and He loves this nation. Churches are working together across denomination and generation lines to worship together and to reach out to those who are not yet a part of our family. Something is being mobilised, and it is such a privilege to get to be in this land for this time.

All of YWAM England at our Family Gathering last week

Monday, May 22, 2017

blind are seen

"Look at this bracelet. It says 'unknown.' I woke up in hospital on Monday with this bracelet on my wrist that says that I'm unknown. I'm unknown from unknown. And my heart stopped - they had to use adrenaline to bring me back to life. I died as John Doe."

When Tommy approached Jorien and me at Streets Kitchen in Camden on Friday, I thought that he was drunk. I assumed he was just another of the homeless men who drink their days away to keep from seeing their hopeless situations. But when he showed us his hospital bracelet and started telling us his story, I realised that I had judged him wrongly. He is a man with a heart for God and a past that haunts him.

Tommy served in the Royal Air Force in Iraq. His Land Rover was hit with friendly fire, and he sustained injuries. He killed seventeen men, and he is haunted by their faces every night. And every night, he begs God for forgiveness. Because he is Catholic, and because a Catholic charity that helps those with mental health problems on the streets helps him, Tommy is never assured of his forgiveness. He loves God, but he can never be sure that he is precious and loved. He spends his nights begging for forgiveness that was given him the first time he asked for it. He longs for love from a Father who gave everything because of how much He loves Tommy.

Tommy has been on the streets again for a week. He had a job in Islington, but he ended up back on the streets on Sunday, and he took a cigarette from a bloke that ended up being laced with a drug that landed him in hospital. Because he had no ID, his bracelet read "Unknown from unknown." And that rattled Tommy more than being on the streets.

You see, Tommy longs to be known.

And Tommy is known. He known to the very marrow of his bones. But how can we tell him of that? When I looked into his eyes and told him that God loves him, that God forgave him long ago, I knew that it was a truth that could transform Tommy's life. I knew that he never has to be afraid of being Unknown from unknown again. But Tommy has kept that bracelet on his wrist. He has kept that label on himself.

I still don't know what to say to these men and women who wear like armour the unjust labels that society has placed on them. We serve them food, and we speak truth and love, but more often than not, they still walk away. I think that maybe, putting new labels on them, the labels that their Father puts on them, is a start. We don't have to call their situation hopeless, because we know that hope has a name in Jesus. We don't have to call them alcoholics or destitute or crazy. We can call them loved.

I don't have anything more to say to them than that they are known by name and loved to the nucleus of every cell in their bodies. But I can say those things, and I think that it is enough for now. For now, we will be faithful with that. I think that speaking truth could be the first step in calling them home.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

plenty of time to give

Whilst we were on outreach in the Netherlands, we had an opportunity to run arts workshops for the youth in the church where we were staying. Brennan, my photography intern (who is staying to be staff!), and I taught a photography workshop. We spent the time teaching the youth how to use their smartphones to take better photographs and the basic principles of photography, and as I watched them practise their new skills, my heart grew heavy. I remembered when I was in youth group and the way that I always compared myself to others. I remember how I watched the pastors’ sons and daughters and how they always won at Sword Drills, how they went to private Christian school and seemed to know so much about God. I thought that I would never get to that level. I knew that I needed to know God more, but I thought that they were the only ones who would ever know enough to be pastors and missionaries. I didn’t feel worthy of that life myself.
I wish that I could gather together all of the youth that I come across and tell them just that: that they are worth it. They are worthy of a relationship with Christ. It is a relationship, not just a knowledge, and the knowing comes to the heart more deeply than to the head. So many of the people that I grew up with aren’t Christian anymore. I don’t know what led them to abandon their faith (or actually, I could probably guess, since they are the same reasons I toyed with when I was eighteen and realised that it was time for me to decide what I believed in). It took me encountering Christ in a field in Canterbury and discovering that He wanted a relationship with me, a relationship meant for every single day, for the intimate corners of me that I didn’t show other people, for me to decide to give my life to Him. To actually give it, and not just to sit in a pew on Sundays because my mother made me promise to keep going to church.
There was one 14 year old boy in the workshop who took a particular shine to photography. Even after the workshop ended, he found me to show me his photographs. He let me help him position the camera and focus, and even with the language barrier and his inherent shyness, by the end of the evening, we were laughing and sharing stories. It was so easy to form a relationship with him. It just took time and intention.
I am learning that with the Lazarus Project, as well. It is easy to build relationships with the people that we meet, as long as we take the time to do it and have intention. Sometimes it takes me nearly thirty minutes to complete the five minute walk from King’s Cross Station to my house, because I pass several of my mates along the way, and I stop to see how they are. It doesn’t matter that they sleep rough and that I sleep in a bed. We are still friends.
Taking the time to be intentional is something I am learning about quite a bit these days. Time is one of my most precious commodities. I have learnt over the past five years that God is faithful with my finances. I can trust Him to provide the money for my rent, for food and transport, and even for the visa that I need to renew in July. But I still worry a lot about time. And time is the most precious thing that I can give the people that we meet through Lazarus, or through Taboo Arts Internships, or in evangelism. Because through time I can build relationships, and through our relationship, they can meet their Saviour and take the first steps into new life.
And maybe I won’t get all of the photos edited and all of the facebooks updated that day. Maybe I won’t complete my to-do list. And maybe I don’t need to.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lazarus, Come Out

Jesus called Lazarus back to life. When it seemed as if everything had been taken from Lazarus - including life itself - Jesus gave it all back.

It probably seems sacrilegious, but I wonder how Lazarus felt about it.

I've been wondering about that a lot more in the past two weeks, since the Lazarus Project (aka the mercy ministries aspect of our base, which is currently primarily three of my roommates and myself) started working with several different homeless aid charities in Camden and in King's Cross. The various councils for the boroughs of London have been cutting benefits for the homeless, which means that more and more of them are kicked out of council housing and are living on the streets. There are double the number of homeless people sleeping on the streets since 2010.

On Friday nights, we work with Streets Kitchen in Camden Town. The men in charge wheel the food in a trolley from a warehouse about twenty minutes away, and together, we set up tables of hot food, soup, tea, and coffee. Last week, the warehouse lease was terminated unexpectedly, which led to a late set up. The homeless in the area were frantic, because they rely on the food that they are served by Streets Kitchen volunteers. They thought that they would be both cold (it was around 0 degrees Celsius) and hungry. It is actually a dangerous condition to be in, with several of the homeless of Camden dying from exposure and being found on the bank steps the following morning.

While all of these facts are alarming, they are not what bothers me the most.

What weighs most heavily on my heart in all of this is the twenty-somethings who are sleeping rough (another term for being homeless). I  met a twenty year old lad called Luke whilst volunteering with Todos London, another charity that feeds and clothes the homeless at Kings Cross Station on Wednesdays. Luke is from Walthamstow, which is in North London, and his mum still lives there. He had a job working in a pub, but he quit because he wants to earn more than minimum wage. But now he's sleeping outside of King's Cross Station, because he's tired of living in a squat with loads of drug addicts (of which he is not). There is no reason that I can see for Luke to be homeless. He is young, healthy, and strong.

So why is he still homeless?

Then there's Scottish Tam, a girl around my age whom I found in a sleeping bag fort in front of a closed shop on the Camden High Street. She was just lying there with two other homeless men in 0 degree weather. When the other volunteer that I was with asked her why she was still there, she just shrugged.

Why are so many people in their twenties, who are healthy and able to work, homeless? It is something that I do not understand, and it is something for which there is no easy solution.

To be fair, there's not much of a solution to any other aspect of homelessness than feeding them. We cannot provide them with low-cost accommodation or jobs. And while there are different charities across London to help with different aspects of homelessness, we can't help force them to choose not to be homeless.

But the Dinner Club that we run with Notting Hill Community Church fortnightly on a Thursday has taught me that we can befriend them. We can get to know them, to see them through seasons, and speak truth into their lives.

It is a fine line to walk between supporting and being somebody to hang off of, from being a listening ear to allowing people to wallow and be a victim. It is a fine line to walk between telling them off and encouraging them. And it is a fine line to walk to care about them, especially when you see them on the streets throughout the week, and not to feel guilty for the warm bed and food awaiting you.

In the Message version of Romans 8:12, it says, "if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them." That is something that it is crucial for us to learn in this time, especially as the Lazarus Project grows and we encounter many different people in disadvantaged situations. It is also something that I am finding it difficult to learn. I just want to be able to help. But what if I can't do anything, or if the people that I would love to help don't want help? Which brings me back to Lazarus: I wonder how he felt about being raised to life again? Would he have rather stayed in Heaven? Or was he happy to have another chance at life, to go in with the new perspective of somebody who had everything taken away, then given back to him again?

Working with Streets Kitchen in Camden

Amanda and I working with Todos London in King's Cross

A reminder I found on Baker Street today

Friday, January 20, 2017

Digging in the Dirt

When I was a little girl, I loved to dig my hands into the dirt and the sand. I loved to feel it in between my fingers, to feel that I really had a grasp of it, to know how warm or cool it was, how sticky or how crumbly. It was messy, yes, and I didn't like to clean the remnants from under my fingernails, but I still had to know the feel of it.

That is what I feel these past weeks have been. A month ago, the DTS ended, and the students and most of the staff returned to their homes for Christmas. I stayed in London, and my parents came to visit me. Together, we celebrated Christmas at my local church and with my teammates who were still in London. It was the first time that I had everybody together, which was so much more than I expected. On Boxing Day, my parents and I headed up to the Scottish highlands for a few days. It has long been a dream of my father and me to visit, and it was just as beautiful as we hoped.

Since everybody has come back to London again, we have had a few weeks to work on our various ministries and to spend time together. We feel that it is a year of intimacy and getting to know God better, so we have had teachings, times of prayer and intercession for the coming season, and several meals and evenings spent just being together. We live a busy life that feels that we are constantly running at top speed. I think that we needed these weeks of slowing down and seeking God for what is coming.

This year, we are starting a ministry called the Lazarus Project, which essentially encompasses mercy ministries. Mercy ministries are ministries that show mercy to the people in London who are in need of love, care, or justice, such as the homeless, prostitutes, sex trafficked, mentally ill, refugees, and people living in poverty. We have been working in the area of mercy ministries for years, especially with the dinner club that we host fortnightly in Notting Hill for the homeless and needy in the area, but now we are launching a more official ministry for it. In England, these steps must be taken for government grants, etc. We need prayer for Lazarus, especially that we will have the focus and take steps in the order that God leads. There are thousands of people in need of mercy in London - where do we start?

We also started several connect groups around the city. Johanna and I host one in Notting Hill on Tuesday nights, and we have a range of generations and nations represented amongst our ladies. I love spending Tuesday nights with them. Two of the women are 70 and from Colombia, and the stories they share are both humourous and eye-opening, because they face life so differently than I have. At the same time, they love being 70 and getting the chance to experience all of the different things that London has to offer, from free transport for people 60+ to art classes for pensioners.

Tonight, our January 2017 Internship begins. We have seven girls from different nations coming to join us for music, social media, photography, dance, fashion, and theatre. We will continue with our ministries as we have interns - God has increased our staff and our ministries so that we get to reach out to different areas of society and the city at once. We have been digging our hands into the soil of London, and I am so thankful for these past weeks. We have had the time to tell the texture, the temperature, the feel of the soil, and as we see what God has done and is doing, it makes us so thankful.

My dad took this of me in Scotland

Scottish highlands

My parents in Scotland

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

the Lazarus Project flyer